Image for What went right this week: headway on cancer, plus more

What went right this week: headway on cancer, plus more

UK cancer death rates plummeted, eagles embraced city life, and the ‘happiest’ countries were revealed, plus more good news

UK cancer death rates plummeted, eagles embraced city life, and the ‘happiest’ countries were revealed, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

The UK’s cancer death rate plummeted

Cancer deaths in middle-aged adults plummeted by a third in the UK between 1993 and 2018, despite cases of cancer rising.

That’s according to a Cancer Research UK study, which showed that mortality rates had dropped by 37% in men and by 33% in women in the UK.

One of the standout successes was in preventing deaths from cervical cancer. The mortality rate for the disease fell by 54.3% – a milestone attributed to improved screening. The HPV vaccination is expected to make “a further huge impact on reducing the disease”, Cancer Research UK said. The study also found that lung cancer mortality rates fell by 53.2% in men and 20.7% in women, following a reduction in smoking. 

The decline recorded in the UK mirrors that of the US, where cancer death rates have fallen by a third since 1991. But amid the good news, there was a note of caution. Cancer Research UK warned that all UK nations are failing to meet their cancer waiting times targets and that health staff are “under extreme pressure”.

“It’s vital that the UK government takes bold action to keep momentum up,” said Jon Shelton, lead author of the study. “Now is the time to go further and faster, building on the successes of decades of research and improvements in healthcare.”

Image: Cottonbro Studio

good news
Speaking of surviving cancer…

A British man who was given nine months to live after being diagnosed with brain cancer is “doing well” after taking part in a world-first immunotherapy trial. 

Ben Trotman, 41, was diagnosed with glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain cancer – in October 2022. The following January he participated in a clinical trial, where he received immunotherapy prior to the standard treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He married fiancée, Emily, the same month.  

Trotman had a strong reaction to the treatment and was hospitalised with an extreme headache, which doctors believe was a sign the treatment was working. His latest scan showed no evidence of high-grade disease in his tumour. 

“We obviously don’t know what the future holds but having had the immunotherapy treatment and getting these encouraging scan results has given Emily and I a bit of hope,” said Trotman.  

The trial was run by Dr Paul Mulholland of University College London, which hopes to open more trials. 

Image: Ben and Emily on their wedding day. Credit: University College London Hospitals

good news
Europeans breathed a little easier

Air quality has improved significantly in Europe over the last two decades – but most Europeans are still breathing air that breaches pollution guidelines.  

That’s according to research by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. It found that levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) fell by 2.7% and 2.5% respectfully per year between 2003 and 2019. Nitrogen dioxide levels showed a smaller 1.7% annual decline. The pollutants are linked to chronic health problems, including heart disease and cancer. 

Despite the notable improvements, 98% of Europeans still live in areas exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommended levels for PM2.5, the study showed. For PM10 the figure is 80%, and for nitrogen dioxide it’s 86%. The report’s authors said their work highlighted “the need for targeted measures addressing specific pollutants”.  

Image: Anna Urlapova  

Mini-Holland schemes got the UK moving

They are the traffic schemes that British tabloids love to hate. But despite the media-fuelled controversy over low-traffic neighbourhoods, new research shows that they boost active travel and save the nation money. 

A study, based on six years of surveys among people living in three London LTNs, linked the schemes with a switch from driving to walking and cycling. Those behind the research put the economic benefit of the ‘mini-Holland’ schemes at more than £1bn over 20 years, mainly through healthcare savings. 

“Active travel interventions provided high value for money when comparing health economic benefits … to costs of implementation,” concluded the study, led by Prof Rachel Aldred of Westminster University. 

Her research coincided with a separate study by the London School of Economics and the Vitality insurance company. It estimated that setting a national target of 5,000 steps a day in the UK would save the National Health Service £15bn by reducing rates of chronic illness, including cancer and diabetes. The study was based on data from millions of people in the UK and South Africa.   

Both sets of research came as Lambeth council in south London scrapped one LTN scheme after complaints it led to slower bus journeys. 

Image: Matt Seymour

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Planted coral brought hope for damaged reefs

The world’s reefs face myriad threats, from destructive fishing to coral bleaching. Could planted coral help them to recover? 

Scientists at the University of Exeter, England, think so. They slipped below the waves to assess the effectiveness of Indonesia’s Mars Coral Reef Restoration Programme, which revives degraded reefs using transplanted coral fixed to sand-coated steel frames.

Researchers found that reefs restored with planted coral grew as fast as healthy reefs after just four years. “The speed of recovery we saw is incredible,” said lead author Dr Ines Lange. 

The news comes as scientists warn that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its fifth bleaching in eight summers

“While reef restoration cannot solve the problem… [posed] by climate change, it shows that active management actions can help to boost the resilience of specific reefs, and bring back important functions that are critical for marine life and local communities,” said Lange. 

Image: Tom Fisk

good news rewilding
Scotland made rewilding progress

It’s one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries, but not for much longer perhaps. New figures show that 2.1% of Scotland is rewilding, with green-fingered community groups, farmers and landowners helping turn the tide. 

The figures were published by the Scottish Rewilding Alliance to coincide with the launch of its Rewilding Nation Charter, which calls on the Scottish government to commit to restoring nature across 30% of land and sea.

“Climate breakdown and nature loss mean we face an unprecedented threat to our way of life,” said Steve Micklewright, convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance. “But it’s not too late. Scotland can lead the way as a rewilding nation to benefit nature, climate and people.” 

Image: Peter Cairns/northshots

Eagles moved into downtown Toronto

Half a century ago they were flirting with extinction with only a few hundred pairs left in North America. No wonder Toronto is aflutter after a pair of bald eagles were found nesting in the city. 

Bald eagles have never been recorded nesting in Toronto, which has invested billions restoring the Don River and cleaning up polluted green spaces. 

“It’s a sign that an ecosystem is healthy when we see bald eagles returning,” Jon Spero, lead bird keeper at Toronto Zoo, told CBC news

A ban on hunting and pesticides found to be harmful to eagles has helped their numbers recover more broadly across North America, where there are now estimated to be tens of thousands of the birds. 

Image: Richard Lee

The Sycamore gap tree lives on

An iconic tree that inspired artists and poets before it was unlawfully cut down in England last year may live on through seeds salvaged from the scene. 

The Sycamore Gap tree near Hadrian’s Wall was voted English Tree of the Year in 2016 and featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Its felling sparked national outrage, which may now be tempered with hope after the National Trust conservation charity said it had cultivated 45 seedlings from seeds collected at the scene. 

“The response to the Sycamore Gap tree’s felling has been extraordinary,” said Andrew Jasper, the trust’s director of gardens and parklands. “While there’s a way to go before we have true saplings, we’ll be keeping everything crossed that these plants continue to grow stronger and can be planted out and enjoyed by many in the future.” 

If the stump at the site does not regrow, the trust said it may replant the tree using one of the seedlings.

Image: Mark Mcneill 

The world’s ‘happiest’ countries were revealed

The Dominican Republic has topped an annual mental wellbeing index, which saw many developing counties outperform rich western nations. 

Sri Lanka and Tanzania came second and third respectfully in the latest Mental State of the World report, which challenged the idea that money brings happiness. The UK ranked second bottom, beating only Uzbekistan.

The index uses data from 500,000 respondents in 71 nations, to measures how people’s “inner state impacts their ability to function within their life context”. In other words, mental wellbeing relative to the setting. The results suggests that mental wellbeing globally has plateaued since Covid.

The US nonprofit Sapien Labs, which compiles the index, said that the prevalence of smartphones and online communications negatively impacted wellbeing, particularly in rich nations. “Other contributing factors are the relatively diminished family relationships in wealthier countries … and ultra-processed food consumption,” it added. 

Image: Man celebrating Dominican Republic carnival wearing a mask and costume of the diablo cojuelo. Credit: Larry Penaloza

I am not a typo campaign autocorrect
Stop autocorrecting names, a campaign urged

Do spellcheckers think your name is a typo? If so, you’re not alone. Research shows that 41% of the most popular recent UK names are routinely flagged as errors. Now a campaign – I am Not A Typo – is calling on tech giants to ‘correct autocorrect’ in the name of equality. 

“Our names are the most important words in our lives – part of our identity,” wrote those behind the campaign. “Our children should not be othered by the technology that is integral to their lives. It’s up to the arbiters of that technology to fix it.”

Read the full story here.

Image: I am Not A Typo
Main image: StockSnap/Pixabay

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